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Exclusive interview: Rooster & Butch on the Super Bowl, oil business and A&E series

Wayne "Butch" Gilliam, Gil Prather, Mike “Rooster” McConaughey
Got a good idea? You need to convince Butch, Gil and Rooster it’s a deal worth doing

On A&E’s “no bull zone” reality series Rooster & Butch, these two hardened, yet good-humored, West Texans, Mike “Rooster” McConaughey and Wayne “Butch” Gilliam take us on a ride to find the next big thing — or at the very least, a darn good idea that is worth putting their hard-earned dollars into.

Known to most as Rooster and Butch, the series is crafted around these entertaining entrepreneurs who use their horse sense, business acumen and gut reactions to make the decisions on who they want to invest with. Along with Gil Prather, they entertain many a pitch and suss out those seeking someone to give them a leg up.

Butch is a high school dropout who became a legendary pipe salesman in Permian Basin and co-owner of Patriot Premium Threading Services. In 2006, he made a multimillion-dollar killing on a patent deal.

Rooster famously is the brother of actor Matthew McConaughey and is a college dropout who made his fortune with his DGM Supply, an oil pipe machine shop that specializes in buying and selling used pipe. The two are joined at the hip in this investing adventure and count songwriter Gil Prather as their third wheel, muse and counsel.

Unlike Shark Tank, they tend to skip over the CV part of their prospective new partners and dig deeper into the person’s character and willingness to work hard.

The guys previously featured in The West Texas Investor’s Club on CNBC, but now their A&E series is a much more personal look at exactly how they conduct their investing, with all the unbelievable pitch ideas thrown their way.

The series takes us through their process on the “how and why” that makes them dig deep into their pockets to help someone get their idea off the ground.

We spoke to them yesterday about a whole host of subjects:

Rooster and Butch
Rooster and Butch in their “office” of the oil-rich West Texas flatlands

Monsters and Critics: I lived in Houston in the boom years moving from Boston, I learned about you Texans…

Rooster: There’s a lot of Patriots fans down here now.

M&C: The Patriots are a good team.

Rooster: Yeah.

Butch: Damn right.

M&C: Hey, I still think the Oilers should be in Houston. I’m old-fashioned. 

Rooster: Me too.

M&C: The Cowboys had their run. They were a dynasty forever. 

Rooster: I don’t know what it was. I ain’t sure Patriots aren’t rubbing our face in it. Look at between Brady and that coach, I don’t know. It’s almost unfair. They need to handicap the sons of bitches.

M&C: The oil field business. They were all panicking back in the ’70s. Coal gasification was something that a lot of the oil companies were exploring and things of that nature. You guys both started really at ground level. How has the oil business changed for you? You guys have seen a lot of ups and downs in this business. Are you bullish or are you kind of hedging your bets on the oil business?

Rooster: I would say Butch and I, we aren’t AS bullish because you know anytime you get in it, we’ve watched it go up and down so many times, and whether it’s you get involved in fracking, sand or whatever it is, when oil goes down, it affects all of us.

If you’re in an industry that is involved in the oil business, well, I mean you’re going to get hurt. Just because you diversify in the oil business, it all takes a hit wouldn’t you say, Butch?

Butch: It does, it does. We’ve learned that, over the years, you just kind of plan for it. It’s going to do it. The lows create the highs and the highs create the lows.

Rooster is kind of different than me, he’s actually…when it’s the slowest [and] when times are at their worst, that’s when Rooster is making the big bucks. He’s buying as the oil companies are selling stuff…I mean, it’s junk prices, literally, and Rooster is out buying it up. Then when it gets busy again, he makes a killing.

You kind of have to learn how to deal with those times. And we’ve done that and a lot of people learn the hard way.

Rooster: We’re lucky enough to have gone through so many of these that we don’t have to be in debt when it… you’re out of debt, you got a little war chest. When the thing does go, it gives you time to hang in there, you know?

One of the other things that are different is there are different players in there. There used to be more romance in this business. You were just proud to be in it, regardless.

Everybody was almost, from the roughneck to the president of an oil company, it was almost the same social circle. Not quite, but it was closer, you know what I mean?

M&C: Y’all spoke the same language…

Rooster: You hit it on the head. That’s a good one. Back then, more of us spoke the same language. You couldn’t say it better. Wish I would’ve thought of that. Here everybody’s thinking of better s*** than me, but that’s a good one. That’s basically what it is. We spoke the same language more back then than we do now because it’s got an influx of different people that are in it for simply the money.

Butch: Everybody now’s educated. Everybody’s got a solid education.

Rooster: Yeah.

Butch: Back then, the oil field consisted of a bus of people came off the farm, literally came off the farm in the country. They were starving to death, but were skillful with their mind and their hand and could take some wire and a screwdriver and fix anything.

That’s what built this business out here. Now all those people are getting replaced by young people who come straight out of college.

Rooster: Common sense ran the oil field. Now, technology runs the damn thing.

Butch: Yeah, that’s it. That’s it.

M&C: Let’s circle back to your show on A&E. You guys bill yourselves as the anti-Shark Tank. If someone has got a good idea and it smells right to you, you think about investing in these people…

Butch: Well when Rooster and I, when we did this, we promised each other that we would have fun with the people that we collect. We’re going to have the luxury to pick whoever we want to deal with.

In life, oftentimes in work, you’ve got to work with people you don’t really care for or maybe sometimes you absolutely downright…

Rooster: Hate ’em!

Butch: …You got to put up with them and you got to do things you really don’t want to do. That’s part of the struggle of making a living in the average day-to-day world for people.

We decided let’s go out and try to find somebody that reminds us of us. It may be at an earlier point in our life. Somebody hungry and dedicated, got the right stuff, so to speak, wants to make a commitment, stick with it like we did, and just be a hard worker and dedicated to whatever it is you’re trying to do.

We try to avoid people that seem to be obsessed with money and want to get rich overnight.

I can’t tell you how many people have come to us and the first thing they say they want to sell their company. They’re trying to cash out before they even get the thing established. We’re just really selective in the person. We think the person’s the most important thing in any business.

Rooster: You also have the deal. We enjoy the thrill of their deal. We felt that way. ‘Man, we got this deal, we got this deal.’ Every deal you made you’re excited about it, high-fiving, whatever you’re doing and stuff. The compassion and the thrill they have when they come in it. Like Butch says, we enjoy the thrill of their deal.

Butch: It’s fun to see that youthful enthusiasm when you do the first deal or you start to become successful, to see the excitement, the joy it brings to the person. We’ve had that, and I guess we’re getting hardened, I don’t know what you’d call it. The thrill doesn’t seem to be there for us anymore, but it is when we see someone else do it. And that’s kind of fun

M&C: Have you guys ever invested in someone that you were kind of on the fence and then it turned into be just an amazing thing and it just blew you away and shocked you, quite frankly?

Butch: We never let the truth stand in the way of a good story [laughs]. Absolutely. I don’t think we’ve been shocked yet. We pretty much knew what we were getting into, I think, with nearly all of them. We even had fun.

I’ll tell you what, we’ve gotten into some deals with some people that we didn’t think would be very enjoyable, but it turned out to be real satisfying, but not so much in a lucrative way.

Rooster: They all have great big ones. They’re hard. They’re not just sitting there for the picking.

M&C: This season, are there any particular stories that you can share, that you can tease for the fans, that are really going to be ones to watch for?

Rooster: We’ve always said there’s a guy that comes on there with his ghost detecting device, and that’s something that…it doesn’t get much better than that, especially because Gil [Prather] believes in ghosts. It’s more of a …

Butch: [laughs] He should because he’s fixing to be one.

M&C: He’s got a ghost machine?

Rooster: [Laughing] That ghost machine works because it goes off every time Gil walks by. He’s fixin’ to being a ghost anyway, so the ghost bot recognizes him.

I think another point of the show is that we met with them to see what they got and see what they can handle. You don’t want somebody that’s so sensitive that can’t take a joke or can’t do whatever, you know.

Something you’ll see on the show this year is they turn the tables on us sometimes. I don’t know where they’re getting their help, but you look up and all of a sudden, “Hey guys, we got something we want you to do.” And we’re all in, but I mean we do get blindsided. We’re totally fine with it. We like it — turnabout is fair play.

Butch: We think they’re all going to be good. The first two, I think, were fun. It’s really representative, I think, of just the average person in America that’s got an idea, wants to get ahead, and has a great, big desire to be bigger and better than what they are.

It will relate to so many average, common people. And like you said, you mentioned Shark Tank a while ago, Rooster and I, I think, pride ourselves because people can walk into our little clubhouse and feel right at home. Come in, free-talk about a deal. We still shake your hand and a promise is still a promise. All that stuff matters and means something. It’s valuable to us.

That’s the kind of person we’re looking for.

M&C: Rooster, what’s your favorite movie of your brother Matthew [McConaughey]?

Rooster: Mud. I tell people, even if I see the previews of it, I’ll tear up. It was something that it kind of reminded me, just the way he did it, it reminded me of our dad and just the demeanor he had on it. I said ‘it don’t get no better’ than Mud to me.

I mean, just the way that he is, I get…I don’t even like talking about it. Anyway, that’s my favorite. By far. By far. If you’ve ever watched it, it’s just a different little deal. There’s something about it that kind of hits home with me.

Watch Rooster & Butch head to a bull-riding competition to do some due diligence on a rodeo startup in our exclusive clip from tonight’s episode:

Rooster & Butch airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET/PT on A&E.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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